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5 Steps for Grounding During Instability

I’ve found myself in many client conversations these last months about the challenge of responding to change on multiple levels: institutional, global, national, local, and personal. So, a few weeks ago, I prepared a video for you called “5 Steps for Grounding During Instability”, in part, to deal with the profound ways in which the upcoming election has us all stirred up. 

In different ways and levels of severity, I find this feeling of instability & volatility everywhere I go; it feels like it’s coming right at us. I do not know anyone who is not feeling shaky, either personally or professionally. I shot this video to offer you a process for dealing with the constant change. 

Then something happened that led me to use & review every single one of these 5 steps… and it wasn’t the national news.

We had a COVID exposure in our family. It demanded a rush of change and wave of response. We had to employ a greater level of quarantine than we’d experienced before, underwent multiple tests and that anxious waiting period for results. I held hushed late-night conversations with my husband & took part in tough friend and family discussions. Don’t forget the worry. There was lots of worry. 

We are okay. This time around no one in our immediate circle got COVID. The experience revealed a glimpse of the tremendous amount of stress people deal with as they navigate a positive COVID case personally or in their family. And that instability I wrote about? It was already on my doorstep weeks before the election… which I am also preparing for.

I used all five steps for grounding in these last weeks of uncertainty. They helped me and my family ride the wave of changes & stress together. I had the opportunity to practice these steps before the moment when everything was upended. I was in the middle of the hard moment with a plan, knowing what my family and community needed with a full heart.

I hope you find these steps as helpful as I did. Use them today and prepare for tomorrow.

A guide for those who want to follow the steps in writing.
 
May you, your community, and those at your workplace, be well,
Annie

Rheanna Smith5 Steps for Grounding During Instability
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Making a tiny shift

Well here in Seattle, we are over 60 days in quarantine. My days are a mix of cleaning dishes, helping with a tiny “preschool” of 3, supporting clients as they make tough decisions, reheating my coffee for the third time, and more dishes.

I know that we are all navigating new realities and changes. I am also very aware that we are not all having the same experience. This pandemic is impacting different people and different communities in painfully different ways. It is highlighting the deep inequities that already existed. Those who are asked to work even harder with less protection are often folks of color and women. Those who in more danger of not being supported if they catch the virus are also people of color. These stark differences are causing us to consider on our own experiences in connection to each other’s experiences.

I am noticing, regardless of our different experiences, most of us are in a place of reflection. If you have a lot of time on your hands you may be reflecting… well a little too much. And if you find yourself with less time, and even more to juggle than before the quarantine, you might find the reflection is in sneaking right before bed or while you wash all those dishes.

Go towards that reflection gently, don’t ignore it. 

What is that voice asking you to pay attention to?

What are you noticing… about you, your relationships, your work, our communities?

Is there a shift calling out to you? Something you want to change?
(Maybe it is not as grand as the pivot everyone is talking about.)

If you give this ask for reflection a few moments of your time you can begin to make positive changes in your own life, in your community. (Examples of people making positive changes in my own community.)

For more on my own reflection & a simple process for paying attention to the call for a shift, watch my short video. Want to go even further for a step by step reflection process below.

The first step toward a shift or change is to pay attention.

Step by step: How to make a shift in your life

If you have a little more time or capacity, here is a way to reflect on a change you want to make, without simmering in it (which increases overwhelm).

What do you want?
First, ask your self – what is the shift you are noticing, or wanting, or needing to occur? (Again, this can be internal, or in relationship to others.)

Write it down.
On a sticky note. On a piece of paper.
Whew you wrote it down! It just got real.

Now let it be for a while. Put it up somewhere you will see it.

Reflect on your role & capacity
Come back and reflect by journaling or thinking about these questions:
– What can you control in the thing you want to have change? 
– What do you have capacity for taking on right now?
– Where do you already see the shift happening? How can you increase what is working?

Start small and with you
Find the smallest, simplest step that you can take, which is in your own control, to begin the shift.
Even if you are hoping for a big change in your workplace or in your community. You can find your role within the change and start there.

Gather resources
Start paying attention to the conversations & resources that begin to come your direction in support of this change. Read them. Listen.

Talk it out
Find someone you trust who will be kind to you while you reflect on what you want to change. Pick someone who will help you see other perspectives. Ask them for support, further conversations, & accountability.

What is working
Often our desire for change can come from what is wrong and not working. Hold on to the reminders of what is good and worthy of celebration – in yourself, your life, your relationship, your work, your community, & your country.

Listen to other perspectives.
Now that you have begun your own work. Continue to reflect on what may be occurring for others in the change you want to see.
– What could be their perspective, experience, & feelings?
Listen to those around you involved in what you want to see change.
See what changes in you when you open to their viewpoint.

Repeat each step, go further toward the shift you want to make.
Watch ripples in your life, your relationships, your work and your community!

Share with others – here, in a phone call or on social media… what positive shift are you making and how?

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015Making a tiny shift
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The return from silence

I am back.

Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I have been “back” at work since Elino (our little one) was about 4 months old. He is now almost 2 years old! But there’s a tension between our real life and our online life. In my online life, I’ve been quiet & internal, posting a picture every few months. A little picture of a baby hand reaching out to touch a tree on Instagram. A quick photo as a token of the changing seasons on Facebook. A close up of a very green salad made by a dear friend.

In my real life, over the last year and a half, I have been a full-time momma, a full-time business owner/consultant, and a full-time partner in life and work with Roberto.

I’ve been quiet for a few reasons.

One, I had a child. For a quite a while I walked through the world in a deep state of awe. That kind of sublime feeling is not easy to put to words.

But also… Donald Trump became our President.

Both powerful events are intertwined in my psyche. I brought a little being into the world who was so small and helpless. Here is a man who models the worst of what our country has to offer. He is a directly and indirectly responsible for crying babies being taken from parents, normalizing climate lies, violence & sexual assault, threatening the sanctity of free speech. He embraces criminals, dictators and corruption. He pits our country against itself. He is a manifestation of everything this country believes itself not to be but actually is.

The intersection of these two events caused me to pull in and regroup. I was experiencing beloved human nature born into the world and I was hearing people in our country call out for policies and practices that denied humanity. Now, if you feel differently, please email me. I would love to begin a thoughtful dialogue about it. Let me extend an offer of listening as best as I can.

So, that’s why I‘ve sometimes seemed quiet.

I wondered “What do I have to say in this time”? It’s question many of us ask, especially those of us living in positions of privilege. And yet for us to come together in this time of division, we need to be talking. Talking and listening. Listening a lot.

Yet soon after these events I had an amazing opportunity to work with The Food Empowerment Education Sustainability Team, FEEST on their new strategic plan to grow & deepen the movement for just food systems. We had lively meetings while Lino slept (and cried) in my lap. I facilitated meetings with Roberto – my husband, a FEEST founder and a phenomenal facilitator. I listened. The lines of my life blurred – personal and work and political could no longer stay in separate columns.

(To be inspired and amazed by what youth-led, creative, love centered, food-filled social change looks like CHECK OUT FEEST.)

I worked with Verity Credit Union as they explored the true meaning of community in their mission while vowing to be a financial institution that puts people and community first. This work changed my understanding of what institutions can be when they live through the right intentions. Their work serves as an example that a large system can imagine another way to be.

I facilitated with multiple organizations that are working to become more equitable in their work and missions & unpacking the ways they perpetuate institutional racism. I continued to support groups of people that gather together to figure out how to make changes in large structures, like our foster care system.

Maybe you have witnessed people working to make fundamental changes in how we are in community with each other during this time of divisions and hate?

Maybe you have also quieted your heart and begun to look more directly at who we are as human beings…

When I look closely at humanity right now I see the ugly, the inhumane ways we pull back to protect “our own”. I understand and feel more clearly this instinct to protect & enclose around those I love. I also see the ways we come into this world as small creatures with sweet coos and loud cries for help. I see how we rapidly find delight in this world. And how easily we come across frustration and loss. Passing my days with a toddler I am reminded of how I choose to see the world and how I choose to interact. Every day I see how we have so much to learn.

We can keep a small understanding of humanity and decide who is deserving of love and who is not.We can also expand our understanding of each other as essentially connected and recognize our mutual origins as helpless small humans. Each of us is capable of responding to the call of our time to be greater than “us” and “them” & to bridge the distance between you and me.

Here are questions you can ask yourself as you continue your journey toward creating a better world:

What are the ways you are remaining connected to the beauty and humanity of someone different than you – perhaps someone who votes different than you? Who believes something different than you?

What are you doing, even something small, to heal a wound that has been left in your community?

How are you listening to the cries around you? Want do people want? What do people need? What are people afraid of?

Leave your answers in the comments below so we can hear each other.
Or feel free to send me an email annie@vesselconsulting.org.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015The return from silence
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Say yes to life’s wild ride

Have you been contemplating doing something a little scary or exciting with your life?

Maybe you have been thinking about making a big shift in what you are doing or how you do it. Or perhaps you want try something new, like picking up a paint brush or a pen and creating something. Maybe there is something or someone you have been avoiding for a while and you are mustering the courage to have a conversation.

There is a lot of fear swirling around those of us living in the United States, and around everyone in this current world. Horrible, scary things are happening to people in the United States — from hurricanes to police violence. People around the world are fleeing their homes because of natural disasters and horrifying acts of terror. The fear is palpable. I can feel it every time someone begins a conversation about Hillary or Trump. (See? Didn’t your heart race a bit just reading their names?)

Fear is all around us. It can stop us in our tracks. It can pervade beyond where it makes sense—moving from a logical fear that protects us, to dwell in a haunted place inside our minds where it is no longer helpful.

Fear shuts us down from imagining new possibilities for ourselves and for others.

How can we answer this current, fear-inducing political and social landscape?

One way is to make the choice to say YES to the things in our own lives that we want to bring into being, even if they scare us a little.

This is my first blog post after seven months off. I did not intentionally take this time away from writing to you. It happened naturally when I made one of those gutsy life changes I am talking about. My husband Roberto and I decided to try and get pregnant and have a baby. And it worked! I am now very round and only three weeks from when this little one is due.

After I became pregnant, something unexpected happened. I grew very quiet and internal. I am not often a silent person. However, having a life growing inside me caused me to focus my energy differently. I was not totally aware of this shift until I realized I had slowed WAY down on my personal Facebook posts and had stopped writing blog posts. Part of my silence was because of this small, amazing miracle occurring and another side of my reticence to speak up was my own fear. Choosing to have a child is scary – you are committing to something much bigger than yourself, you are creating life when there is a lot that can harm the next generation, and you are guaranteed that you will not be a perfect parent. And this act of creation is already changing me in powerful ways.

There are choices we make that change us more than we realize.

After a few of these life experiences, we may begin to get weary of any change or new choice that affects our lives. Even if there are exciting opportunities ahead, we’re smart enough to know that transition is never easy and it never turns out how we planned. You can choose to try to stay on the same path and walk the line. But you know that usually doesn’t work either. Life will still send you some big game changers.

As I sit before one of my biggest life transitions yet, grateful, excited and—yes!—terrified, I encourage you to say YES to your next possibility, big or small. The growth that happens when we say YES to the wild ride of life is powerful. It is where the creation happens.

We need some creative, life affirming energy in this world right now. Let’s say YES.

Before you click on the next email or browser screen, take a moment. You’ve made it this far. Something is speaking to you. What do you want to embrace and say YES to? Or what do you want to stop doing?

Gather your courage. Gather your support system. And try it.

I am with you in this one. I am gathering my support systems and my courage and getting ready to bring a brand new, small human being into this world, in the midst of all of the fear and hate. It will change everything for me. This choice will also bring delight and possibility into my life and the lives of others.

Join me in saying YES to continuing to choose living in the face of fear.

 

 

You’ll be hearing a lot less from me for the next three to four months, while I’m learning to be a mom. I’ll be taking time away from my business, but before I take this break, I want to address how we can address the fear that pervades our current world.

When I return in a few months, I expect a few exciting changes in my business, and to continue to do awesome work with my clients. I promise to send you a picture or two via my email!

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015Say yes to life’s wild ride
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Loosen your grip

Last month, I wrote that the things and people we love can cause us both joy and stress. I wrote that both connecting and disconnecting—engaging and disengaging—are healthy responses. Here is a simple practice that will help you reduce stress and increase joy.

Think about an area of stress in your life. It could be your work, a specific project, volunteer activities, a relationship, your kids. Remember, the people and activities we love can still bring us stress.

Look deeply: What is something within that area of stress that you enjoy? What are you grateful for?

Practice being mindful when you are involved in that area of stress. Consciously deepen your connection to the thing you enjoy.

For example, one of the areas of joy in my work is small client meetings and groups. I love this work! When I have the opportunity to be in a client meeting, I can stop and think to myself, “This is wonderful. I am so grateful for this moment.” I connect with that part of my work.

Now think again of that same area that causes stress in your life.

What is something within that activity, project, or relationship that you could disconnect from? What could you delegate, take less seriously, or worry about less?

In areas of our life that are very important we can become very attached to every single thing that is occurring, how it is happening, and the possible outcome. This increases the amount of stress we experience.

You can let go! Loosen your grip and release that vision of the “perfect” result, the “right way” of accomplishing your goal. Say goodbye to a few less important tasks.

For instance, my home is not as clean as I would love it to be, especially when we have guests. But I can’t be totally attached to this part of my home life. Other things are more important to me, and I love having guests, so I say to myself, “A quick, imperfect clean-up is better than not having guests at all.”

This week think of something you want to deepen your connection to, and something you want to actively disconnect from. I promise that doing both will reduce your stress.

Annie Von EssenLoosen your grip
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2 questions that cut back the stress

I have missed you!

I didn’t write a blog post last month because I was just beginning my first online class, ever!  In February, I launched a 7-week online version of my Room Next Door workshop and really wanted to give my full attention and support to the folks in my class.

My Room Next Door workshops and classes are all about what we can do to reduce stress in our lives and increase joy. Needless to say, I have been thinking about this a lot in the last few months!

Growing my business is a super exciting and joyful endeavor. I would not want to be doing anything else. But even though I love the work I do, launching new websites and new programs is not without its stress.

Many of the things that cause us stress also bring us joy. And if something is stressing us out, the solution is not always as simple as saying, “Just stop doing that thing. Do less of it.” Our jobs, our beloved volunteer projects, and our families can all bring us a lot of stress — but we cannot just quit all of them!

So how do you reduce the stress you feel in the midst of your full, busy life?
Here are two questions you can use.

Ask yourself, “What am I connecting to? What am I disconnecting from?”

What do I mean by connect and disconnect?

We are making connections all the time. We choose to engage with ideas and people. There are activities and projects we choose to experience and enjoy. You can think of the connections as moments where you have your hand open, palm up. Or perhaps you are high-fiving. You are energetically saying, “Yes, please!”

You are allowing the person, idea, or moment to connect with some part of you.

 

At the same time, there are things and people we are disconnecting from: experiences, feelings and thoughts we are not engaging with. Think of the disconnection as moments when your hand is positioned in a gesture that says, “Not right now.” You are mentally and emotionally unplugging.

Disengaging mindfully and from a place of love can be a powerful way to care for yourself. In fact, sometimes it’s the only way you can move forward and get the work done.

 

Next time: How to engage or disengage mindfully and with love.

admin@annievonessenwebsite20152 questions that cut back the stress
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Back in the thick of it.

Are you back in the thick of things?

This can be a hard time of year because we want to feel that fresh start. Yet here we are, still pushing through the same work and juggling all the same pieces of daily life.

It can also be a refreshing time of year. Some people can harness the new year’s energy and then launch into both new and old work with a renewed sense of passion.

If you are working on a project that feels like it just keeps going with no end in sight, then this note is for you. If you are feeling super excited about the year ahead, then consider this note an extra boost!

When you are pushing through work that never seems to end, here are a few things to remember. You have heard these things before. Many wise teachers and dear friends have said these words. But for you, now in the midst of January, I am going to say them again.

Look back at what you have accomplished

You have done many things in your life that are awesome and powerful.  You have already done things in your work that are HUGE accomplishments. I know you have. Right now remind yourself of the great things you have done. (I won’t judge if you brag a little.)

Trust yourself

Yes! You actually have the ability to keep going. You have the ability to do this work. You have everything within you that you need. That includes the ability to ask for help and innovate with other folks who would be great work with. You can do this.

Find ways to sustain yourself for the journey

If you are going on a very long road trip, it is a good idea to pack snacks and food. It is also a good idea to pull over and eat that food, get out of the car and look around, move your body a bit, get some sleep, and even ask someone else to drive for a while.  Think of your big project like a road trip. Eat, sleep, listen to good music, see the sights, have fabulous conversations – get out of the car sometimes! You will still get where you’re going. And you will enjoy the journey a lot more!

Nothing is forever

“This, too, will pass,” said Persian Sufi poets and lots of other wise people. And it’s true. Everything ends and begins again anew. This current project will be over, this challenging job will end, the kids will grow older. Hold this knowledge, at least just for a second. This moment right now is the moment you have to make the most of. A few moments and blinks later, things will be different.

You’ve got this! Keep going. Look back and congratulate yourself on what you have done. And don’t forget to take a few breaks along the way.

You can even tell me! Feel free to write me a note or post a comment below.

 

Do you want to commit to finding ways to have a calmer, more connected 2016?

My Room Next Door class begins on February 14th. Choose now to be less stressed next year. Get more info and purchase your seat here.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015Back in the thick of it.
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What is sweet in your life right now?

There are a lot of expectations at this time of year. Expectations we place on ourselves, expectations of our loved ones, end of the year expectations of our co-workers. If you are religious, then this time of year can also bring expectations for your spiritual life. Some of these people and their expectations want the best for you: to have a merry time, to feel loved and connected, to experience delight. However, expectations can feel heavy.

For me this year, the expectation to participate in the holiday season and year-end rituals is commingled with the heaviness of my heart.

My heart feels heavy because of all the hate, lack of understanding, and murders that so many communities in our world are facing right now. And I do not want to ignore the complexity of the expectations for the holiday season and the sadness about what is happening to people in my country and in countries far away. So I am not going to. I am going to hold both.

This year as I shop or decorate the house, I am also feeling a mix of delight and sadness.

I am choosing carefully where to invest my time and energy. I am putting my energy into this time of thanksgiving. I am focusing on the upcoming holidays, which are most dear because that’s when I gather with my family. I am lucky to have them.

I work hard to not shut down my heart with the constant barrage of news focused on hate and suffering. I have one technique I am using this year to keep my heart open and remember the essence of this season. At least once a day I take time to remember what is sweet in my life, what I have given to others, and what gifts I have received.

You can do this every day, perhaps right before closing your eyes or as you take the first sip of coffee in the morning.

Close your eyes and ask:

What is sweet in my life right now?
What have I given to someone in my life?
What have I received from someone in my life?

As you answer each question, say thank you. This ritual does not have to be a big thing.

Here are my answers for right now:

What is sweet in my life?
Our home is warm and clean, with a sweet cat and caring neighbors.

What have I given to someone in my life?
I offer a careful listening ear and steadfast commitment to my partner.

What have I received from someone?
My dear friend trekked across the mountains in the snow, bringing her 10-month-old for a visit.

What is a sweetness in your life right now? Post in the comments or on Facebook.

 

Do you want to commit to finding ways to have a calmer, more connected 2016?

My Room Next Door class begins on February 14th. Choose now to be less stressed next year. Get more info and purchase your seat here.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015What is sweet in your life right now?
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A bigger reason for living

Do you believe you are living for something larger than yourself? I believe most of us are living for a purpose greater than ourselves. You may not have gotten explicit about the big purpose behind what you do every day, but I imagine that you could name many reasons — reasons that are beyond your own needs.

  • Are you making choices so your children learn how to grow up as loving humans? Perhaps you’re making hard choices so your children can have opportunities and new experiences you did not.
  • Are you working on a project that will make our communities better places to live, or our schools better places to learn? Are you working for a world where people will have more access to resources, care, and love?
  • Are you trying to act in a way that causes the people around you to experience a little joy and kindness during their day?

I believe we were put on this spinning planet for a short time in order to give something of ourselves. That “something” does not have to be grand or heroic. If we are all thoughtfully trying and giving in our own sphere of influence, it will matter. The effect will ripple.

Take a moment to get clear. Take a breath. Then ask yourself, “Right now, what bigger reason am I living for?”

Now write down your bigger reason for living.

Think of one way recently you have done your best to live into that bigger purpose. It could be a grant you wrote. A project you are working on with a team. A conversation with your child, your parent, your best friend.

The way you treat someone on the bus today, how you move around people on the sidewalk, how you talk to someone serving you coffee… every action is an opportunity to make a small connection with another human being. A connection that lets the other person know you care, even just a little. And that is living with a bigger reason than yourself.

In the midst of all the violence, occurring in our world and in our backyard, we need this – to connect to our larger purpose.

And here is one more thing: When you see someone trying their best to live out their purpose, see them and say something. You could say, “I see you being an awesome parent, friend, partner.” Or, “I see you working hard for our community.” Say thank you. There are a lot of us trying out here. Let’s remember to keep trying and keep saying thanks.

Here are a few examples of ordinary people, like you and me, living out their bigger purpose – here and here.

This world is rough. It is full of injustice and suffering. In the midst of all the brutal news, we tend to forget our bigger purposes. As we recognize all the ways we fall short as humans, we forget that most of us are working to improve this world.

Remembering our bigger purpose and acknowledging others will allow us to keep expanding our hearts.

How are you living out your bigger purpose? How do you see others living out their bigger purpose?

Post your thoughts in the comments below.
Join the conversation on Facebook.

Do you want to commit to finding ways to have a calmer, more connected 2016?

My Room Next Door class begins on February 14th. Choose now to be less stressed next year. Get more info and purchase your seat here.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015A bigger reason for living
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Maybe it’s time to start something new

I know I often write about de-stressing by taking things off your plate, but maybe it’s time to try something new.

Whoa! If your schedule is packed and you do not know how to fit in one more thing — or you don’t even feel like thinking about new things — this may seem like a very unhelpful suggestion.

Hear me out.

I imagine there is something you’re wanting to try. Something new that you’ve been thinking about, but haven’t shared with anyone. Maybe this new thing does not even require extra time in your schedule.

Trying new things is how we spark and light up. It is how we learn and grow.

New things can make us smile and giggle. New things can make us almost brim over with fear, and then experience the glorious release of saying, “Well, screw it!” and jumping in with both feet.

It’s like trying a bite of an unfamiliar new dessert at the bakery. It can be a sugary surprise and it is almost always worth it.

I am trying something new right now. For the last few months, I have been going to the gym and joining 10 other women of various shapes and sizes in weight lifting and interval training. This is way outside my comfort zone. My notion of myself has never been strong or athletic. Instead, I have seen myself as klutzy and goofy. I am more likely to be found bumping into the corner of a table than I am lifting a weight. Now I put on tight blue pants and running shoes and join the circle of women to receive our marching orders in a smelly gym.

You know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? That’s how I felt as I parked my car in front of the gym for the first two months.

Then WHY in the world am I going?

Here is the reason: I have always wanted to feel a little less clumsy and a little bit stronger. And because something in me was resisting the idea SO fiercely, I knew something in me really wanted to try.

So in a practical sense, this is my new thing right now: This amazing class that is teaching me how to do a burpee. Every time I go, I dread it a little bit less. And I am getting stronger.

But do you want to know what the new thing in my life really is?

It is THINKING about myself differently. I am now trying on this idea that I am a strong woman. A woman who is totally capable of lifting weights and doing wall sits. This is the biggest shift. I have to give myself a talking to almost every class. It goes something like this: “Annie, you are totally capable of doing this. You are doing this! You are strong and you are getting stronger. Get it!”

So I turn back your direction.

What is the new thing you’ve been wanting to try? Is there something you are already doing that is new and scary and out of your comfort zone?

It could be an addition to your life – a new skill or hobby. Or it could just be a new way of thinking about yourself. I bet there is something, if you look closely.

Acknowledge this new thing you are trying on. Maybe you can begin to see yourself in a new light. You can say, “Hey, I am strong. I am capable. I am learning this new skill. I am becoming this kind of person.”

Look yourself squarely in the face. (Really do this. You could even go to a mirror.) And acknowledge the new thing you are trying on – the new person you are becoming.

And if you even want to tell someone about it, do it! Tell someone you love about this new thing that you are living into.

You can even tell me! Feel free to write me a note or post a comment below.

Do you want to commit to finding ways to have a calmer, more connected 2016?

My Room Next Door class begins on February 14th. Choose now to be less stressed next year. Get more info and purchase your seat here.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015Maybe it’s time to start something new
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